No Way, Jose
Gather round, TFG’ers, gather round! Welcome to the preview of this coming weekend’s Premier League action, which will be the first since May 2016 to be without everyone’s favourite pantomime villain, Jose Mourinho.
After United’s lack-lustre performance at Anfield last Sunday, Mourinho was removed from his post and replaced by a low-budget, Manchester United fan-run charity event dream duo, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Mike Phelan. The two Old Trafford heroes will remain until the end of the season, when a long-term appointment will be made, as United look to rebuild for the 1,000,000th time since Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure.
But whilst the Portugese has been burning effigies of Xherdan Shaquiri, we here at TFG HQ have all been marvelling at the skills of Steve Sanderson, Walter Hodgson and Anu Tayal – who after the trio called West Ham’s convincing win at Craven Cottage last weekend, have been awarded the #PickOfTheWeek! Well done!
And as we approach the midway point in the season, here is a look at our updated league table:
5th – Jimmy Floyd’s Piggy Bank (Maddy Camble)
4th – Blitzkrieg (Adam Hartley)
3rd – Greenbank Flyers (Ken Ades)
2nd – JOEBAKERSDOZENXI (Philip Taylor)
1st – Your Mam’s Athletic (Glen Bowman)
Ole Gunnar’s reign will begin, rather interestingly, at Cardiff City – the club he was relegated with way back in 2014. The appointment, if nothing else, should bring about a new manager bounce, which should see United comfortably able to cast aside Neil Warnock’s side. Cardiff’s last match was a 3-2 goal fest at Vicarage Road, so they won’t roll over easily however, as they look to rain all over Solskjaer’s parade.
There is no headline clash this weekend, but Everton vs Tottenham on Sunday is probably the biggest fixture. The Toffees’ form has been somewhat sticky of late, with just one win coming from their last five games. Spurs, however, are in a rich vein of form, having won all of their last four domestic matches. After a confident performance in the mid-week North London derby, it seems Spurs are more than likely to come away from Goodison Park with all three points.
Tottenham’s success in the quarter-final of the Carabao Cup means they’ll face Chelsea in the next round, who themselves are readying for the visit of Leicester City. The Foxes have only won one of their last eight matches in all competitions, which has seen them slip down to 12th in the league table. Chelsea will see this as a great chance to collect three points therefore, especially when you consider they’ve beaten Leicester on 13 of the last 16 occasions, only losing once.
But to start the weekend, we have a tasty-looking encounter between Wolves and Liverpool to start our Friday nights. Liverpool will be desperate to win this one to extend their reign at the top of the table, with City looking likely to beat Crystal Palace at home on Saturday. Wolves are now up to 7th in the league after winning their last three matches, the first of which was a home win against Chelsea – a performance they’ll be hoping to replicate, as they have their sights set on the top six.
For Crystal Palace and their trip to Manchester City, they can draw some confidence from the fact that they were able to keep City at bay when they last faced-off, in a 0-0 draw at Selhurst Park. Before that however, Palace had lost their last five matches against The Cityzens by an aggregate score of 19-1, so perhaps the cause for optimism ends there for The Eagles.
Another side facing a tough away trip are Burnley, who have only picked up four points from their last 26 available, as they travel to the Emirates. Though Arsenal haven’t been operating at full capacity recently, a home game The Clarets certainly provides a perfect opportunity to get themselves back into the hunt for the top four.
Also looking to get their season back on track are Southampton, who contributed to Arsenal’s marginal downfall with their 3-2 victory over The Gunners last weekend, in Ralph Hassenhüttl’s first game in charge. They travel to struggling Huddersfield, who have only won twice so far this season, looking for the three points which could take them as high as 15th. The last time The Terriers beat Southampton was in a 2010 League One fixture, but on both occasion these sides have met in the Premier League, it has ended as a draw.
For one of the Premier League’s more in-form teams, West Ham, there is an opportunity to collect their 5th win in a row when they face Watford on Saturday. The Hornet’s narrow 3-2 victory against Cardiff ended a run of seven matches without a win, but even so, they did make it very hard for themselves last time out. These two sides occupy 9th and 10th in the league respectively, and are matched for points, but The Hammers have only beaten Watford on two of the last six occasions that they’ve visited London. Could West Ham’s purple patch end here?
There is also a crucial match taking place at St James’ Park, when Fulham arrive, attempting to collect their first win under Claudio Ranieri. There has been little improvement on Fulham’s defensive front since the Italian’s arrival, but even despite Newcastle’s recent spike in form, the home side continue to struggle in front of goal. Only Huddersfield have scored less goals than The Magpies this season, so if ever there was a game for The Cottager’s back four to impress, it is now.
Finally this week, Bournemouth welcome Brighton to the Vitality. Eddie Howe’s side have dipped recently after a truly impressive start to the season, but the young manager will be pleased to see The Seagulls arrive on Saturday, as he is unbeaten in nine matches against Chris Houghton’s side. For Brighton, just one win from their last seven matches does make for worrying reading, as should their coming matches: Arsenal, Everton, West Ham, Liverpool and Manchester United. It seems this match could well be their best shot at three points for quite some time.
As always however, whoever your pick may be this weekend, we here at TFG HQ wish you the very best of luck.
Team TFG and Dan Wiseman